Privilege (film)

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Privilege FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Peter Watkins
Produced by John Heyman
Written by Norman Bogner
Music by Mike Leander
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Edited by John Trumper
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • 1967 (1967)
Running time
103 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $700,000[1]

Privilege is a British film directed by Peter Watkins. It was released in 1967 being produced by John Heyman. Johnny Speight wrote the story, and Norman Bogner wrote the script. Some of it was filmed on location in Birmingham, England, partly at Birmingham City F.C.'s St Andrew's stadium and at Birmingham Town Hall.

Plot summary[edit]

The story is set in a near-future 1970s and concerns a disillusioned pop singer, played by Paul Jones, who is manipulated by the church and state, to turn him into a messianic leader.


The film was greatly influenced by the award-winning 1962 Wolf Koenig/Roman Kroitor National Film Board of Canada documentary Lonely Boy, which in cinema verité style follows the growing hysteria surrounding then teen idol Paul Anka, with some scenes (notably that showing Steven Shorter at a table with a venue owner named “Uncle Julie” in both) being almost one-to-one reproductions of the earlier work. However, Lonely Boy has a different theme, that of a popular singer being merchandised by the music industry.[2] The director of Privilege, Peter Watkins, had made a study of this earlier documentary film to prepare himself for filming Privilege. A DVD release of Privilege included Lonely Boy as well as an excerpt of an essay on that film as extra features.[3][4][5]

Watkins also believes that a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was taken from Privilege.[5]


Gary Glitter auditioned for the lead role that eventually went to Paul Jones. Glitter's career later took off in collaboration with Mike Leander, responsible for the film's music.[6]

Musical score[edit]

The film featured Jones' performing the title track, "I've Been a Bad, Bad Boy" (a number five hit record) and "Free Me".[7] A soundtrack album was released in the US and UK.

In 1978, the Patti Smith Group recorded "Free Me" as "Privilege (Set Me Free)" on their album Easter. The recording reached number 72 on the UK singles chart and number 13 on the singles chart in Ireland.

Home video release[edit]

Privilege was released on DVD in the UK on the BFI's Flipside imprint. The disc included two of Peter Watkins's short films: The Forgotten Faces (1961) and The Diary of an Unknown Soldier (1959), as well as the original Privilege trailer.

A Blu-ray Disc version has also been released after problems due to "an issue with materials" were resolved.[8]


  1. ^ Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974 p345
  2. ^, accessed 7/2/2015
  3. ^ At The Cinema
  4. ^ DVD Verdict
  5. ^ a b Peter Watkins, Part 2, Films, Privilege.
  6. ^ "Obituary: Mike Leander". The Independent. 1996-05-03. Retrieved 2016-06-02. 
  7. ^ "No 2: PAUL JONES on the 1967 EP Paul Jones Sings Songs From The Film Privilege". Record Collector. Retrieved 7 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "BFI Flipside in January". Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix. 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-06-04. 

External links[edit]